Eric R Dursteler
Thursday, 12 May 2016, 06.00 PM-08.00 PM
One of the central credos of food studies is Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s famous aphorism, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” What Brillat-Savarin intuited, modern scholars have substantiated: Because of the biological imperative of daily consumption, food inheres in a uniquely intimate way in collective and individual identities, and functions as a potent social, gender, political, and cultural marker. It also serves as a “sacred cement” that defines and differentiates communities of faith through rules on what to eat and how to eat it, and through rituals of sacrifice, feasting and fasting.
This presentation will examine the multifarious ways in which food informed religious and communal identity in the early modern Mediterranean. In particular, the focus will be on wine and pork, which have occupied a privileged position in articulating regional cultural and religious boundaries. An examination of patterns of consumption of these commodities challenges the prevailing notion of a culinary “clash of civilizations” at the Mediterranean table, and suggests the need for caution in drawing overly stark culinary boundaries between religious communities in a connected Mediterranean that was characterized by a richly dynamic and nuanced food culture.
Eric R Dursteler is Professor of History at Brigham Young University and is specialized in Late Medieval and Early Modern European History. He is the author of Renegade Women. Gender, Identity and Boundaries in the Early Modern Mediterranean (2011) and with Monique O᾽Connell, The Mediterranean World. From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Napoleon (2016) as well as In the Sultan’s Realm. Two Venetian Ambassadorial Reports on the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (forthcoming 2016).
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